Saks Off 5th Opens In Midtown Next Month With A Gilt Boutique Inside

While some shoppers are counting down the last few days before Chelsea's new Barneys opens, others are keeping their eyes on Midtown where an opening date has been set for New York City's first Saks Off 5th location. Eyebrows were raised when it was announced only a few months ago that the luxury department store's outlet chain would open right in the middle of full-price territory on East 57th Street, a mere seven blocks uptown from the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship at 50th and Fifth. Now we have learned that not only will the store will open on Thursday March 3rd, but it will contain the first of what is expected to be several in-store Gilt boutiques in Off 5th locations (rendering pictured above). WWD reports that the 1,000-square-foot boutique will be situated at the landing of the first escalator in the two-level, 47,333-square-foot underground store. The shop will include "Gilt by Appointment" services and will mirror the sites online events. New merchandise that is released online at 12 noon will also be unveiled at the store just in time for lunch-hour shopping. Off 5th will also accept returns of online purchases in the store but is not yet ready to facilitate in-store pick-up of online purchases.
The new shop is one of the results of Saks parent company The Hudson's Bay Company's recent purchase of Gilt. While Off 5th and the online retailer will begin to be marketed in tandem, they will continue to maintain separate buying and merchandising personnel to differentiate the more luxury minded site from the broader assortments at Off 5th. We will be able to see how well the new siblings play with each other in just over 3 weeks when the new store opens at 125 East 57th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues. It's worth noting that in our rather extensive experience, off-price stores like this one tend to be packed with exceptionally good bargains at the grand opening, so first-day shopping is always recommended.

Gilt to Go Brick-and-Mortar on 57th Street (WWD)


Opening Ceremony's Tech Shop Has The Stuff You Didn't Know You Wanted

It's not unusual for a big retailer to open a trendy tech department full of the obvious headphones, smartphone covers and wireless speakers, but leave it to the folks at Opening Ceremony to fill their new tech shop with a small but carefully curated collection of the stuff you might not have known even existed, but you must have immediately. It's not a sprawling selection by any means, and, this being Opening Ceremony, you can be sure that the item's own aesthetics were a factor in its being chosen for the assortment, but then, that's why you shop there any way. It it's pure functionality you want, then you can go right to J&R... oh, wait, no you can't.
Well, you can go somewhere else.
Anyway, for those who need their tech to be pretty as well as functional, you will find sleek Leica cameras and lenses, Fujifilm portable printers, featherweight Bang & Olufsen headphones and brilliant little items like an auxiliary light to improve your iPhone photos, attachable smartphone lenses —even a humidifier. Opening Ceremony's Tech Shop is open online, so now that Father's Day is finished, go get something for yourself.


Who's Going To Buy A Vertu Phone On Madison Avenue?

We are asking this question for real.
Who buys Vertu phones?

The luxury division of Nokia seemed like a good idea when the luxury mobile phone brand was launched several years ago. Of course, at that time, even busy executives still made do with a Motorola RAZR and maybe a Palm Pilot. The idea that someone who would settle for nothing less than an Hermès handbag should have an equally precious cell phone made perfect sense and looked like a great business opportunity —at the time.

Vertu phones appear to retail from $7,800 to $16,000, and so it makes sense that the brand is planning to open its stand-alone boutique on a stretch of madison Avenue that is saturated with jewelers and luxury watchmakers. The devices are lovingly and meticulously made with stainless steel, titanium and other and other high-tech materials including costly sapphire crystal screens. What's sort of surprising, is that the brand seems content to represent itself with a basic cell-phone image blown up in the window. We don't doubt that there is a customer for a luxury mobile device, but in a moment when even the most luddite-minded among us are anticipating the newest iPhone, who uses a regular cell-phone anymore? Considering the rapid cycle of technological advancement when it comes to mobile communications, even the wealthy and extravagant among us seem unwilling to invest in anything more than a top-of-the-line iPhone that they fully expect to replace in a couple of years at the most. For example, highly touted designer mobile devices from the likes of Prada and Giorgio Armani failed here when no U.S. carrier cared to support them. Vertu devices, are sold unlocked, but at those prices, who would care about a two year contract discount?

Out of five models featured on the Vertu website, only one appears to have a Blackberry-like configuration that would facilitate texting and email (The Constellation Quest, $8,400), But while it seems like most of New York seems dependent on touch screen, app-filled iPhones and Android devices, even this bauble looks hopelessly outdated.

And yet, Vertu is set to open at 703 Madison Avenue this Fall, so there must be something about the brand that we don't know. Could somebody explain?

When To Buy That Computer

Buying a car is not that complicated. The model years end always end at a certain time and you always know when to buy if you want the latest thing. If you want the best price and don't care if you have last year's car, you can buy at the end of the model year. Simple.

Computers, smartphones, tablets and other electronics, however are not quite as easy to figure out. The products evolve so quickly that even retailers aren't always quite sure when new models will be announced. Unless you want to spend your time constantly tracking techblogs, you can't always tell if something is coming out in a month's time that will render your new laptop obsolete. has arrived to make all those decisions easier. The High Low reports that the recently launched site is designed to tell you if you should buy that camera now, wait for a the price to go down or sit tight for the estimated arrival of an updated model. The folks at Decide dispense all this advice using complicated algorithms that track release and pricing histories for thousands of electronics models that we couldn't begin to explain further. What we do understand is that the site will tell you, for example, to wait until later this month to buy a MacBook Air when a new model is expected, but if you want to spring for a MacBook Pro, you should get it now because prices aren't changing, and a new version isn't expected for at least six months.

For the moment, the site only covers TVs, computers and cameras, but as it develops, we are told it will be adding phones and tablets, and any other electronic devices that will infiltrate our lives before we know what has happened. It's inevitable that machines will take over our lives, but at least you'll have surrendered yours to the latest, most updated one.

Finally! A Site That Tells You When To Buy New Electronics (The High Low)

Still Waiting... Part II

They're still there.
Like hungry kids who are scared that they aren't going to get their pieces of birthday cake, these poor miserable people are waiting in a snaky line at Apple Fifth Avenue for their iPhones. We think that we can expect this sort of thing to last for several days, although we suspect that Apple is now creating a separate line for the iPhone while other customers should be allowed to shop the rest of the store. At least we hope so. Otherwise, buy the end of the week, there will be a huge contingent of New Yorkers in desperate need of the Genius Bar.
And here's another line:
Oh wait...
Those Bozos aren't in line for an iPhone.
They're just waiting to get into Abercrombie & Fitch!
We're really not sure which group is more deserving of our pity.

Still Waiting...

Well, it turns out that the fine folks in Cupertino, California (Apple's headquarters) are not smiling quite as wide as we guessed on Friday.
The line above is from the Apple Store on 14th Street yesterday afternoon where anxious customers were still waiting not because of any supply issues, but simply because Apple and (more importantly) AT&T require in-store activations for all iPhone purchases to discourage buyers from altering the software for use with other carriers as happened with the original iPhone last year. Overloads of Apple's iTunes servers caused delay after delay, while determined customers waited and waited all weekend.
The problem was not only high demand, but Apple's decision to invite existing iPhone users to upgrade to the new software at the same time.
We have to wonder exactly why the in-store activation was so necessary. Since the iPhone was subsidized like most other handsets, we don't understand why the terms of other subsidized deals wouldn't apply here. Generally, customers are required to stick to the terms of the deal, or else they are charged the full price of the phone.
Our advice is the same as it was before: wait a few weeks. There's plenty of them, and why waste a perfectly good weekend standing on the sidewalk like a dolt?

iPhone Phriday Redux

Well, the lines didn't start as early in the week, but when they happened, they really happened. Plenty of people got up early to get their new iPhone 3Gs, and hundreds of them once again snaked all the way around the GM building, but instead of having to wait around all day, Apple kindly opened its doors at 8 AM. By 8:45 when we made our way over to check things out, the line was still stretched to Madison and 59th. At the AT&T store nearby on Park Avenue and 51st Street, a somewhat shorter line extended about halfway down 51st which was longer than last year, but far more palatable that Apple's endless queue.
The catch? By noon, AT&T was sold out for the day. Migdalia, a genial salesperson assured us that deliveries would be repenished daily, so we would still tend to recommend checking their stores first before braving the tourist cluster#%&∑ that is the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue. Their now considerably shorter  line continued to move although its speed was hampered by a few glitches in the mandatory in-store activation process. Some customers were released to complete the process at home which suggests that in the future, the strict activation rules may be relaxed. By noon, happy, newly connected iPhone holders were no longer cheered at their emergence from Apple's glass box with a little iPhone bag in hand, though plenty of press was still there waiting to interview satisfied consumers.
Will this become a perennial event, like the launch of a new version of Grand Theft Auto or PSP?
Time will tell, but it looks like over in Cupertino, Mr. Apple is breathing a happy sigh of relief.
Previously:  iPhone Watch: Apple's Non-Event?

iPhone Watch:

Apple's Non-Event?

Last year, around about this time, Apple was launching the magical new iPhone for the first time, and eager early adopters were already snaking around the GM Building for a 24- hour camp-out in hopes of being the very first to get their hands on the coveted gadget.
One year later, and a newer, better, faster, cheaper iPhone Will be available in a mere 14 hours (8 AM Friday the 11th). The news just told us that people are already waiting outside the store, and the line is... well... where is the line?
Oh yeah, there's a few people there, and the iDiots (yes, we have no compunctions about calling them iDiots) have been there nearly all week. While Apple has been furiously preparing for throngs of ravenous shoppers, people may have remembered that even on last year's launch day, you could buy the very same iPhone at an AT&T store after less than an hour's wait. No camp-out necessary.
Iphonelinesoho Down at the Apple Store in SoHo, there appeared to be a "line" of two people, until we realized that one of them was a journalist interviewing the other, no doubt inquiring why he had chosen to make such a spectacularly poor use of his time.
Why the lack of frenzy?
For starters, the iPhone is not so new anymore, it's just improved. It's cheaper, but probably not if you already have one. The $199-299 price range is only in effect if you are starting a new AT&T account or at the end of your service contract and eligible for an upgrade. If you bought an iPhone a year ago, you are probably in the middle of your contract with AT&T, and would have to pay about twice as much for the new handset. In fact if you have any service with AT&T, the sole iPhone provider in the US, you still need to be eligible for the upgrade to get the subsidized price. That means we won't even think about buying one until December at the earliest.
There's no home activation this time, so anyone who purchases the new version will have to activate it in store by either setting up a new account or converting a current AT&T account to the new device. This is meant to discourage the rampant unlocking that happened with the first phone and Apple hopes to expedite the process with mobile checkout. By the same token, there is no internet ordering either.
We're not really worried that Apple's going to take a bath on this thing. It's certainly going to be our next phone, but the sense of urgency is gone, and of they're going to upgrade this thing every year, we might just wait until next July to get one.
Previously: It's iPhone Phriday! Meet the iDiots

New iPhone
Finally, Oficially Revealed:

Max Price $299!
Available 7/11/08

Get ready for a repeat of last year's iPhone insanity.
Line up now.
It's thinner, faster, available in two colors and, best of all CHEAPER!
The much awaited, much rumored new iPhone was finally announced only minutes ago at Apple's annual World Wide Developer's Conference. Running on the 3G network that AT&T is close to completing, the handset offers all sorts of improvements that are better explained by the folks at Gizmodo, Engadget and AppleInsider.
We'll take it.

Today In Mindless Extravagance:
Introducing The Diorphone


Apparently, the folks at Christian Dior are unbothered by the economic slowdown that has most American companies quaking these days. To prove it, tonight they will be officially unveiling the Diorphone which they designed in-house and will be available next month in Dior Boutiques and select watch and jewelry retailers for a mere €3,500 which would be about $5,100 at current exchange rates - chump change, really, for the Russian/Arab billionaire types it is aimed at.
Or should we say their wives/girlfriends/mistresses/spoiled daughters? Embossed with Dior's signature "cannage" pattern, the phone replaces the usual menu icons on its touchscreen interface with the house's signatures like a tiny Lady Dior handbag, for example. Honestly, this phone looks too girly even for most of the gays, in our humble opinion.
One interesting innovation is a miniature "twin" phone called "My Dior" that can be clipped to an easily accessible spot and used as an extension when the phone rings and is buried at the bottom of your great big Dior bag.
It also doubles as a mirrored compact.
See? Ultra-girly.
We can't help wondering that if tech-savvy Hedi Slimane were still at Dior Homme a more masculine version would also be introduced. The wireless twin extension is actually an interesting innovation, and stems from the fact that the folks at Dior have developed the phone's design themselves rather than turning to one of the major manufacturers like Giorgio Armani (Samsung) or Prada (LG) did.
As in the cases of those other designer models, however, we find it unlikely that any American carriers will support the Diorphone, leading to a situation like Prada's where it is not officially sold in the U.S. (not even in Prada stores) and only available in unlocked versions from independent electronics retailers who may not be all that jazzed about selling a $5,100 phone with no discounts.
Dior CEO Sidney Toledano seems sure that mobile phones should reflect the more luxurious mindsets of their owners, yet we wonder whether even the wealthy will be willing to spend such a sum for a tech item with a short lived obsolescence.
Oh who are we kidding? These are people who think nothing of spending at least an equivalent amount on a dress with an even shorter life span.
Of course, if $5,100 still sounds cheap to you, there will be a diamond studded version for $27,000 (€18,000).
Perhaps they should just be sent directly to Saudi Arabia.
Dior Brings Luxury to the Cell Phone (WWD)